2003 Golden Piton Awards: Big-Wall Free Climbing
The Huber Brothers: Zodiac (5.13d)
Thomas leads the Bottleneck pitch of Zodiac.
Photos by Heinz Zak
It was a banner year for big-wall free climbing. In southern Greenland, American and British teams ticked over a half-dozen major objectives in very clean style, using little or no fixed protection or aid. Stephan Siegrist, coming off an injury, completed his project linking the Rote Fluh and Czech Pillar on the huge western “sport” sector of the Eiger North Face. Iker Pou, in his continuing quest to climb the world’s hardest big free climbs, repeated the famous El Niño
on El Capitan, climbing past a key broken hold to create a new 5.13+ crux high on the route. On his home turf, Pou also established the stoutest (and scariest) free route on the 2519m west face of Naranjo de Bulnes, “Spanish El Cap,” when he freed the A4 route Zunbelt
. On the Acopán tepuis of Venezuela, the prolific team of John and Anne Arran and Venezuelan Alfredo Rangel added Pizza, Chocolate, y Cerveza
, (VI 5.12b R, 600m), a climb done without any falls by any team member, sans any fixed gear, even at belays.
Still, despite the exploration, the runouts, and the wide spectrum of big, high-standard free climbing, the climb of the year was surely completed right here in the States, on El Capitan; Zodiac, the wall’s most famous and emblematic nail-up, went free at 5.13d. The first 100-percent free route on El Cap’s overhanging right side (recall that El Niño has a rappel), this extremely steep line (with variations, including a new four-pitch start) was redpointed over the course of three hot October days by the El Cap masters, the Huber brothers. For details, see the pictorial feature on page 60 of issue No 230.